Monday, April 21, 2014

Aloha to the First Post-Divorce PCS Move

 

There are many parts of military life that I can’t escape despite my status as an ex-military wife. And while I may have over a decade of military life experience under my belt, my status change has greatly altered how those parts affect me.

Simple things, like taking the kids to the clinic on base last week for their summer camp physicals, now feel foreign to me. I had to explain that the sponsor was no longer my husband, that the kids no longer lived with him, that my last name was no longer the same as theirs. I had to say no to my son when he asked if we could swing by the Exchange and explain that I can’t shop there. I didn’t feel like I belonged on base, and I was relieved to drive through the exit gates after the appointment and return to my civilian world.

But going on base for my kids’ appointment is ultimately pretty insignificant when there are much bigger military life norms to deal with. Like a PCS move.

My ex-husband is PCS’ing in June. To Hawaii. For three years.

(To give you a frame of reference, we currently live in Virginia.)

When I first learned about his orders, I didn’t really believe him. After all, we had just gotten divorced. Why in the world would he accept orders so far away from his children so soon after such a huge transition for them? I had my theories as to why he would tell me he was moving to Hawaii, but those theories ended with him saying, “Just kidding. I’m staying here. I couldn’t do that to the kids.”

Turns out, he wasn’t kidding. He did accept orders to Hawaii. As his ex-wife, I have no right to contribute my input regarding his career trajectory, so I didn’t. Instead, I’ve started bracing myself for the consequences of his decision.

For the next three years, I will essentially have full custody of our kids, despite our legal shared custody. (I won’t go into the financial aspect of this change, but that’s a huge issue as well.) If and when he returns to this geographic vicinity, our daughter will be closing in on her 10th birthday and our son will be 13.

There’s no clear plan about when the kids will see their father in the next three years. He wants to take them every summer, but I don’t see how his travel schedule will possibly allow him to supervise them for eight straight weeks. As far as holidays, they’re already divided in the divorce decree, but I’m predicting major changes to that schedule. For instance, Thanksgiving is too short of a break to send the kids to Hawaii. Is he really going to fly back here? Plus, he hasn’t even left yet, and he’s already passing holidays off to me. (He was supposed to have Easter yesterday, but gave it to me because of his “schedule.”)

And then there’s the basic issue of travel. How are the kids going to get to Hawaii? They’re too young to make that flight alone. Is he going to fly back to get them? Will his parents take them? And who is paying for plane tickets that are the farthest thing from inexpensive?

But my most immediate concern is how my children are dealing with the prospect of being so far away from their father for such an extended period of time. Even though I feel it’s my ex’s responsibility to provide the proper explanations to the children about his move, I’m often the one left to spell things out and prepare them for the realities of what’s about to happen. While he’s gushing about “the most beautiful beaches in the world” and giving them vague promises of when they’ll visit him, I find myself being the bad guy as I explain to my daughter that her father’s move to Hawaii means she won’t be spending weekends with him anymore.

I often feel ill-equipped to answer some of the kids’ questions because I don’t have any answers myself. I’m thankful for the wonderful “talking doctors” the kids see on a regular basis. The kids actually enjoy going to their therapy sessions, and I’m relieved to have professionals helping to both prepare the kids for their father leaving and to talk it through after he’s gone.

So what does this PCS move mean to me outside of how it affects my children?

It means I’m going to be a full-time single mother. Yes, I’m a single mom now, but I get time to myself when the kids are with their father most weekends. I can socialize, meet up on Sunday mornings with the awesome running club I joined, and generally recharge before another work/school week. All of that is about to change. Any personal time for me will soon require advanced planning, a babysitter, and probably mommy guilt.

It also means there’s a possibility I won’t see my ex more than a handful of times, if at all, in the next three years.  No more Saturday and Monday meetings to exchange the kids, the dog, and their belongings. No more tension-filled face-to-face conversations. No more formulating back-up plans because of his last-minute schedule changes. No more unnecessary drama.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to the day he leaves.
 

22 comments:

  1. Wow that is a big change. I have been dealing with the fact that hubs is in school in California till November, where he's been since day after Christmas and then when he gets done with school he will deploy. Military life regardless of our affiliation is never easy on kids.

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    1. You're right, Katie, so many parts of military life are tough on the kids. They're very adaptable and resilient, but it's still not easy. And I'm sorry about your husband's schedule. I know you miss him. Hang in there!

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  2. Like you said it's a double edge sword...you'll reap some benefits of having some distance in your relationship with him but the kids don't want that distance with their father. It's a difficult situation for sure but you're a strong and intelligent and caring woman and mother you'll handle it with as much grace as possible. Best of luck to all of you!

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    1. Thank you so much. Things are going to be very different soon, and I'm just trying to prepare the kids (and myself) as best as I can. There will be a lot of adjustments, but as my military brats already know, life is about going with the flow sometimes.

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  3. Your title Riding the Roller Coaster certainly fits your life. Peaks and valleys. You stated the facts clearly and truthfully and your last sentence summed it up. It is a double edge sword for sure, you will be rid of the weekly drama but the added responsibility of having 24/7 care, custody and control over Big C and Little C will fall to you. You will find a balance I feel sure and with the support of family and friends, you will work it out. It will be rough at first, but you will find your sea legs, fall into a routine and become stronger because of or in spite of him.

    BP in VA.

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    1. Thank you, BP. Life has been a roller coaster for quite awhile, so I think I'm used to dealing with major changes. I'm confident that the kids and I will find our rhythm before we know it!

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  4. I hope the next three years are as peaceful as they can be for you!

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  5. My ex moved when my son was 2. He wasn't that interested in his weekend before that, so I wasn't too worried. He got remarried though and has since changed his ways. When we were win Okinawa, he flew out every summer to get him, then took him back for 8 weeks, and flew him out again. He did that with Christmas 2x. We had it in the divorce stuff that he paid for all visitation trips. I'm amazed he did all that. We are stateside again and he flew up to spend the weekend with him. They stayed in a hotel and went to Disneyland. On one hand, it's easier cause he is so far away. My husband has taken the dad role for him. On the other hand, my son really misses him. They have a weekly Skype date though, which I think helps.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Kara. It makes me feel better to hear other similar stories. I'm glad your family seems to have found a routine that works, and hopefully our family will be able to do the same. I see a lot of Skype sessions in my kids' future. That's a great idea.

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  6. Wow. That is quite a flight. Why would he choose orders so far away? Doesnt make sense.

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    1. I've asked myself the same question many times, Jamie.

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  7. That would be incredibly tough. I'm not sure why he'd want to go away for 3 years. I couldn't be away from my kids that long.

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    1. Orders are a part of military life, and I'm not sure what other options he had. But I couldn't be away from my kids for that long either.

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  8. I see play dates in our futures! :) Can't wait! Of course I need to find a house first...

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    1. LOTS of play dates for us, Steph! Can't wait!

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  9. I know exactly how you are feeling. I've been divorced now for 2 years. My ex and I lived aprox 6 miles away from each other and would still come up with excuses to not take the boys. I hated the awkward conversations when we would go thru the drop off or pick ups. He's now remarried, deployed and getting out after he returns. My kids love and miss their dad but they know that momma is the stable parent. Stay strong, as a military ex wife you know that the years will pass by really quick.

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    1. Thank you for the comment. I think my kids have the same sense of the roles their parents play as yours do. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  10. I too am a military exwife, who works full time...My daughter is 2 1/2, but he left us while he was in Bahrain and she was only 7 months old. Luckily, "this" is all my daughter really has known. She gets to spend (maybe) every other weekend with her father, but he lives 4.5 hours away (luckily, the woman he left us for lives near us, so he's local most weekends). I sympathize with the dealing with "his schedule" - because of his "schedule" I won't be spending Mother's Day with my daughter - luckily, it's just another day for me...a day that I will use to catch up on laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping - and maybe a nap...I'm glad I ran into your blog... One thing about being a military wife is that it's prepared us for being a "single" parent.
    Stay strong, sista :-)

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you ran into my blog too because part of the reason I decided to write about the divorce is to hear other voices who have gone through similar circumstances. It's amazing how little is out there about military divorce and what that means for the families. And yes, being a military wife HAS prepared us for being a single parent! You stay strong too. And have a wonderful Mother's Day! :-)

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  11. Thanks for writing so many of the thoughts that swirl in my head on a daily basis. I've just stopped guessing at my ex's motives. I'm looking forward to poking around your site and reading more.

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. Some things are hard to write about, and some things I won't ever write about publicly. Please chime in anytime. It's nice to share thoughts on similar situations. :-) And I'm with you, I've had to stop guessing at my ex's motives.

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